Pattaya Daily News

23 June 2006 :: 00:06:54 am 30325

Thai Officials: PM‘s Party Broke the Law

Prime Minister and his party face a legal challenge which could leave them banned from politics
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 26 June 2006
   An awful lot of mud has been thrown at Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra this year, but not much has stuck. A legal dossier handed to state prosecutors by the Election Commission last week could prove harder to hose off, though. It alleges that Thai Rak Thai, the political party founded and led by Thaksin, bribed three smaller parties to field candidates in Thailand‘s controversial April 2 election after the main opposition parties boycotted the poll, and that it also hacked into Election Commission computers, falsifying the candidates‘ records so they‘d be eligible to run.

   Thaksin hasn‘t commented publicly on the dossier, but Thai Rak Thai spokesman Sita Divari has denied the charges of bribery and hacking, insisting that the legal process will clear the party‘s name. The stakes are high: if the Constitutional Court decides against it, Thai Rak Thai could be dissolved and its executives, including Thaksin, barred from public office for five years. It would be an ignominious end for the party and would trigger mass defections by members anxious not to be left out in the cold before the next election, scheduled for October. Some are already bailing out: Wissanu Krea-ngam, one of six Deputy Prime Ministers, resigned last week, saying he wants to return to academia. “It‘s a sinking ship, but slowly,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok‘s Chulalongkorn University.

   Although Thai Rak Thai has dismissed the allegations ever since they first surfaced in April, it‘s taking the legal procedure seriously and clearly has no intention of going down without a ferocious fight. There‘s even talk of a scenario in which Thai Rak Thai would strike back by demanding the dissolution of the rival Democrat Party as well, on the grounds that its boycott of April‘s vote and its unsuccessful appeal for a royally appointed government undermined the election. “We could both be facing the same fate,” warned Pimol Srivikorn, a Thai Rak Thai spokesman. And Thailand could be stumbling into an ever deeper quagmire.

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   The Election Commission concluded that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra‘s Thai Rak Thai party broke the law by hiring small parties to run in April 2 elections to avoid restrictions placed on candidates in single-party races.
 
   “The Election Commission recommended to the attorney general that the Thai Rak Thai party violated Article 66 of the political parties law,” said Athapol Yaisavang, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General.

   According to the law, the Constitutional Court will take up the matter and could rule that the party gained its April victory by “unconstitutional means” and order it dissolved.

   Thai Rak Thai has dominated the country‘s political landscape since 2001. Its demise would bar all party members, including Thaksin, from running in new elections scheduled for October.

   Pimuk Simaroj, deputy spokesman of the party, insisted it had done nothing wrong. But he said “any party member found to be involved (in hiring small parties) should be held responsible.” ADVERTISEMENT

   The Democratic Party, which stands to benefit the most from the ruling, said it was too early comment since the Constitutional Court still must weigh in.

   In February, Thaksin tried to quell growing street protests accusing him of corruption and abuse of power by dissolving Parliament. He called elections on April 2, which the three main opposition parties boycotted.

   Under Thai law, candidates running unopposed must receive at least 20 percent of the eligible vote to win a seat. As a result of the opposition boycott, 38 seats could not be filled in the first round of voting, and 14 remained empty after a second round.

   Because not all seats were filled, the country was unable to form a new government.

   In late April, King Bhumibol Adujyadej turned to the top courts to help resolve the political deadlock, and the Constitutional Court annulled the inconclusive polls.

   Since then, the Election Commission has set Oct. 15 as a tentative date for new elections.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Politics News

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